“The more you put into it, the more you get out of it” is a timeless saying. It is also the basis of a successful small-group experience. The foundation on which it’s built is the great command to “love God and love others”. (Matthew 22:36-39 NIV) Following are some simple steps to help you put the most into your small-group experience.
Do the homework
You need to schedule consistent time each day to be in the Word. That, more than the study questions, is the main goal of small group learning. Divide the week’s questions over at least five days. If you leave them all to the night before you meet, you won’t have time to spend time with God learning from Him.
Commit to be consistent
You honor your small group leader when you put the same emphasis on participation as your leader does. Mark the meeting dates on your calendar. Don’t allow anything except a crisis to cause you to skip. Make the meetings a priority, even outreach or hospitality meetings. You aren’t only committing to meet with the small group, but with God. (Matthew 18:20 NIV)
Don’t make it all about you
Definitely share stories with the group that you believe will encourage others and fit with the topic of discussion. But, leave room for others to speak if you are a more outgoing person. Make an effort to get to know your small group members. It is so important to make the most of hospitality time as a part of small group meetings so members can get to know and be supportive of each other.
Recognize different stages of growth
Small groups often come together by God’s leading, not to fit the criteria of the group leaders. This means that some people will have been on the journey with God for a shorter time than others. Encourage these brothers and sisters, and be careful not to make them feel inferior by “showing off” your knowledge. God knows you know, and He knew you when you didn’t!
Small groups grow close through the sharing of prayer requests and through praying consistently for each other. Make prayer for your small group members heartfelt and consistent. Don’t be shy to submit prayer requests or praise prayers of your own. Pray also for the health of the small group, and strength and protection for your leaders.
Come alongside your leaders
There are quiet members in every group. Don’t make your leaders do all the heavy lifting to involve these members. Encourage them with statements like,” Thanks for sharing that,” or “I like what you said about…..” or “You’ve experienced that yourself, haven’t you?” Help your leaders come up with ideas for outreach projects and hospitality opportunities. Be engaged when they ask your opinion on future studies. Do the work ahead of time so you are prepared to offer ideas.
God did not make clones. He made individuals with individual thoughts and experiences. If you feel yourself shutting down mentally or emotionally because you don’t like the opinions of a group member, immediately call on Jesus. Ask Him to help you hear, keep an open mind, and love.
“Over all these things put on love”
(Colossians 3:14NIV) A successful small group boils down to loving others, which we do because we love God.